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Six candidates are vying to represent open Northwest City Council seat

A ballot drobox at the Spokane County Courthouse.
Rebecca White
A ballot drobox at the Spokane County Courthouse.

The race to represent Spokane City Council District is crowded – six candidates with ideas that span the political spectrum.

The seat’s incumbent, Karen Stratton, has hit her term limit and can’t run for reelection. The Northwest section of the city was recently the center of a contentious redistricting process, that after a lawsuit and judge’s ruling, is likely a few percentage points more liberal than it has been in the past.

Here’s the candidates running for the now open seat.

Progressive-leaning city council candidates, such as Kitty Klitzke and Esteban Herevia, say they’re concerned about Spokane’s future development. They both say the city should be focused on creative approaches to infill.

Klitzke is a longtime figure in land use and environmental policy in Spokane, previously working for Futurewise and the Lands Council.

She said she’s running in hopes of helping the city plan and adapt to rapid growth. In three years, the city will rewrite its comprehensive plan, the roadmap local governments use to prepare for growth.

“I have a lot of ideas about how to use that process to solve a lot of our local problems, not just land use and transportation,” she said.

She said she also hopes to increase public engagement, saying everyone should have an opportunity to be involved.

Klitzke said she is concerned about recently passed ordinances that could criminalize things like homelessness – such as the new restrictions on being in city parks at night. She said having enough police officers is far more likely to keep the community safe.

“I think solving some of our overarching problems with our police force, and all of the overtime and the lack of people coming in to fill these new positions is probably more important than criminalizing more things,” she said.

Kitty Klitzke, left, Earl Moore, Center and Esteban Herevia, right
Kitty Klitzke, left, Earl Moore, Center and Esteban Herevia, right

Klitzke said the city needs to make sure mental health resources are available to officers. She says the city should work to understand officer burnout and explore recruitment strategies.

Klitzke and Herevia have collected the second, and third largest campaign chests in the race. Klitzke has raised about $27,000 and has received donations from unions, as well as a few high-profile Democrats, including State Senator Andy Billig.

Herevia has raised about $21,000 in campaign funds, with donations from Natasha Hill, who ran for Congress as a Democrat last year, as well as the state Democratic party.

Herevia, the former director of Spokane Pride, said he’s concerned about the city codes that penalize people for being homeless, poor or marginalized in other ways.

“For me, a big thing is ensuring that the policies we put into place actually considers the realities of all people,” he said. “Let's take a look at the new park ordinance, right? The intent is to limit the number of folks in the parks to ensure that the parks stay safe … But when we take a look at the punishment, and who they're looking at, the reality is the majority of those folks are either going to be houseless, or people of color.”

He says he’s also supportive of efforts to increase density in Spokane, but says he does have concerns about missing resources in neighborhoods that will likely be targeted by that development, such as a lack of grocery stores, or laundromats in West Central.

“(We need too) ensure that we are actually putting things into neighborhoods that benefit the community,” he said. “And on top of that, building in a way that allows for us to use density to our advantage.”

Herevia currently works at Washington State University, and previously served as an advisor of Whitworth’s Pride Club. This spring a former student accused Herevia of fostering an inappropriate relationship with them, oversharing information from his personal life, discouraging them from seeking services. The former student has called on Herevia to end his campaign – saying he abused his power over them.

Herevia said he did buy the student an alcoholic drink while they were underage, and only discouraged them from seeking resources at Whitworth because he feared the university would not support the student’s gender identity. He said he was hoping to offer the student the support he never received as a teen, and saw them as a sibling.

“It's been five years, I've led an organization since then, I led us through COVID, I worked with a lot of organizations, I've done a lot of consulting,” he said. “I've also been accountable to a number of folks through this process and so while I understand how egregious, how important it is, to address it, and sit in the reality of it, I also want folks to know that I've being doing the work to ensure that it doesn't happen again.”

Klitzke is the only candidate who has been endorsed by a local political party, the Spokane County Democrats. Its chair, Carmela Conroy, said in an interview with The Spokesman-Review, which first reported the allegations against Herevia, that party members had unanswered questions about the incident.

Spokane County Republicans have not officially endorsed any candidates.

Candidates Earl Moore, Randy McGlenn, and Christopher Savage, all say they're concerned about public safety. But they disagree on one issue: how the city has responded to an investigation that found Police Chief Craig Meidl may have given special access to some wealthy community members.

The city council voted to remove restrictions from the police ombudsman earlier this year, giving him the authority to investigate Meidl.

McGlenn said he believes Meidl is doing good work and supports him, but argues a healthy government should have oversight at every level.

Moore, a retired respiratory therapist, said she strongly supports Meidl. Moore organized a rally on his behalf and vocally opposed allowing the ombudsman to investigate him.

“I do support our police chief 100 percent,” she said.

Darren McCrea, left, Randy McGlenn, Center and Christopher Savage, Right
Darren McCrea, left, Randy McGlenn, Center and Christopher Savage, Right

Savage, a three-time candidate who’s long been active in neighborhood issues, argues the ombudsman already has far too much authority. He called the scrutiny on Meidl a “witchhunt.”

Savage argues the city council’s vote to add to the ombudsman’s authority, along with other accountability measures – is hurting officer morale. He said if the city wants to fix its public safety staffing crisis – the city council needs to be more vocally supportive of its police department.

“No one really wants to be a police officer,” Savage said, “why would they want to go out there, and be vilified, when you’re just trying to protect the community?”

Both Savage, and Moore say they’re the pro-police candidates and argue law enforcement need to be given the resources and support.

“We need to allow our police chief and the police force to do the jobs that they have been trained to do, and I don't think we have allowed that,” Moore said.

Moore has raised more money than any other candidate in the race, about $29,000 and has received donations from several right-leaning donors in the area, including County Commissioner Mary Kuney, as well as funds from the Washington Association of Realtors, and the Spokane Homebuilders Association PAC.

She argues burdensome zoning regulations has made the housing crisis worse.

“We need to cut some of the red tape to increase the amount of land zoned for higher density housing,” she said. “It helps the people who can't afford a larger house to start in a suitable resident that meets their financial needs.”

Savage is endorsed by former city council members Mike Fagan and Bob Apple, who have also both donated to his campaign. He’s raised a little more than $9,000.

He argues he’s the strongest candidate in the race because of the work he’s done to familiarize himself with both neighborhood, and city issues. Savage is a regular face in the audience at Spokane city council meetings, and has also long-been involved in the city’s neighborhood council system.

Savage says he’d like to see more infill, and housing options in Spokane. He the city should also be advocating to revise the Growth Management Act, a state law that restricts how cities are allowed to plan for grow and develop.

McGlenn is the previous chair of the East Central neighborhood council and the former chair of the state Libertarian party. He argues the city council should be focused on its neighborhoods, such as making sure development is right sized, and traffic issues.

“Our city council members really should be our neighborhoods biggest advocates,” he said. “It seems like our neighborhoods get talked down to in many regards, rather than being treated as the people those elected officials represent.”

McGlenn says one area that’s apparent is recent efforts to reform local zoning codes, which legalized more dense housing types in neighborhoods. He says it needs to be refined, because developers are taking advantage of loopholes in the current version.

He’s also one of several candidates focused on public safety, saying he also supported the city council’s recent vote to make being in city parks illegal late at night.

“The last thing that I want to see is a policy of, it’s illegal to be homeless,” McGlenn said. “I know that's a fear, that that's a direction that we're going. I also don't believe that drugs should be criminalized, they should be treated as a medical issue. At the same time, we have some problems where people are creating disturbances, they're vandalizing public spaces, so our law enforcement really needs a very important tool – that’s the tool of deterrence.”

McGlenn has raised a little more than $5,000 in campaign funds.

Other candidates, such as Darren McCrea - say they are hyper focused on specific issues.

McCrea is a member of the Colville Tribes who started the first medical marijuana dispensary in eastern Washington. He said his primary concern is climate change. He said the region should be working to reduce its emissions, plant more trees, and take care of the urban forest it already has.

He said Spokane should also work to make the city more resilient against climate disasters.

“What's going to happen if all of our insects and our trees disappear?” he said.

He said on other issues, like homelessness, Spokane should study local tribes’ efforts and learn from their success. He says he would advocate for compassion, as well as workforce training.

McCrea has not reported raising funds to the Public Disclosure Commission, the body that oversees campaign finance in Washington, but does have at least one billboard up in Spokane. The PDC is holding a hearing on his case later this month to consider whether he has violated Washington’s campaign finance laws.

Ballots will be mailed on Friday. They must be returned by August 1. The top two candidates will move on to the general election.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.